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Surprising Science

Why You May Want To Bring Your Own Music To The Casino

It probably won’t be as fun, but you may gamble less, say researchers at the University of Waterloo, who found that slot machines’ sound effects help trick players into thinking they’ve won even when they’ve lost.

What’s the Latest Development?

Researchers at the University of Waterloo asked 96 regular slot machine players to play a simulated multi-line slot machine game both with and without the accompanying music and sound effects. They did this while wearing electrodes that helped measure their emotional arousal. Afterwards, when asked to guess how many times they won, they overestimated by an average of 15 percent for the silent machine and an average of 24 percent for the regular machine. At the same time, they overwhelmingly preferred the “more exciting” regular machine, and the data from the electrodes help confirm their preference.

What’s the Big Idea?

On modern multi-line games, where a player bets along several lines at once, any single winning line will produce sound effects. However, if all the other bet lines lose at the same time, they’ve technically lost money. The researchers concluded that because of the sound effects, the player is tricked into thinking they’re winning, which encourages them to spend even more. They call this phenomenon “losses disguised as wins” and say that the sound effects may contribute to the “persistence that some players experience when playing slot machines.” Details of the study appear in Journal of Gambling Studies.

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